'All I want is normal life', says scoliosis Mum after waiting 24 years for operation
A woman with a chronic spine condition has told of how she is still waiting for an operation 24 years after being diagnosed.
Michelle Lynch (36) said her scoliosis - curvature of the backbone - was spotted when she was screened at aged 12, but claims there was no follow-up.
"I feel I slipped through the cracks and I'm sure there are many others like me. I imagine there's older people in their 70s and 80s and children too who haven't been diagnosed or treated," she said.
The administration worker from Tallaght fears her case is just the tip of the iceberg.
In a shocking account, she accused the system of failing to deal with a condition that strikes 3pc of people and said she had to give up daily exercise as the pain became unbearable.
"I was really tall when I was a child and I used to get bullied. I'd get told to stand up straight and I don't think I realised why," she said.
"I've lost inches as an adult due to the scoliosis and I wish I could go back and tell that girl to be proud of being tall."
When Ms Lynch was young, her mother bought her an expensive orthopaedic mattress to ease her back pain and she grew up unaware that things would deteriorate unless she received specialist treatment.
The pain has increased in recent years and, despite trying to get seen, Ms Lynch, who is mum to Emma (10) and seven-year-old Jamie, is no closer in her daily battle.
"I've been on the waiting list for three years and that's just for an initial appointment, not for an operation," she said.
"I don't know if I'll be able to have an operation or they'll advise pain relief, but all I know is I have to keep fighting now.
"I want to get back to having a normal life.
"Scoliosis has affected everything I do. I want to be able to go out on long walks with my children, to sit in my job all day without it being painful, to walk into a room and feel confident."
She said she had high fitness levels until the past few years, when the pain ruled out anything strenuous.
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Ms Lynch, who went from 10 stone to 13, said she now wears clothes to hide the weight gain - something she never had to do before.
Last year the strain became so much that she began to suffer "major ups and downs".
Once she would have relied on painkillers to treat the pain caused by a 45 degree curvature.
However, after a tip from a friend, she went to hypnosis classes.
"I feel let down. I was diagnosed. I had a screening in school, but there was no follow-up," she said.
Ms Lynch initially went for a private consultation but reckoned that would prove too costly, so she stopped and applied as a public patient.
It was not until a year ago that she had her first back X-ray.
- Read more: Brave Darragh has a pain-free summer at last - but further wait for surgery is on the cards
Most days she now refrains from physical activity to avoid putting pressure on her spine.
"I avoid lifting my nieces and nephews. I know I can't go out for long walks with the kids and the dog," she said.
"I can't even exercise as I had. It's hard. Some days you feel like scoliosis is winning, but I know I can't let it. I know I have to keep fighting and I want to raise awareness so that everyone affected gets checked, diagnosed and treated.
"The children on the list should come first but, if I stop to think that I was left without treatment, although I was diagnosed as a child, it makes me feel let down by the State."